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#466997 - 06/21/13 10:59 AM Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank
Marty Offline

Conservation and Cruise Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank

Tonight some of the biggest cruise executives in the world are at the Grand Caribe on Northern San Pedro enjoying a cultural night at the meeting of the Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Club.

And we’re sure a lot of them are talking about the future for cruise tourism in Belize. That’s because – even though this is the 7th most popular cruise destination in the Western Caribbean - the system of cruise tendering – where boats pick up passengers and ferry them to shore – is considered out-dated and inefficient.

And that complaint inevitably leads back to the question of where Belize will put a berthing facility – which the cruise ships can dock at. And not only where, but when since the first failed attempted was embarked upon 7 years ago.

One developer who’s positioning himself is Mike Feinstein. He’s the owner of Stake Bank Caye four miles southeast of Belize City, which was proposed as a viable berthing facility and cruise port 6 years ago. The interest died off, but now the project is back in play and last night the developers, the environmental consultant and the Department of the Environment held a public consultation at the Biltmore where the mood was surprisingly restrained – but still rife with discord – which is understandable, considering the proposal is to build a causeway right through a wildlife sanctuary. 7news was there.


Daniel Ortiz reporting
Last night, the 2-hour Public Consultation on the revisit of the Stake Bank project was a heated discussion with the Developer, the Feinstein Group on one side, and the environmentalists and concerned citizens on the other.

The members of the Department of the Environment presented the new plan for the project to a room full of avid listeners.

But how did the old plan look like back in 2007 when it was initially being considered? Jules Vasquez explored it when he spoke to Mike Feinstein, the head of the Feinstein Group.

File: September 19, 2007

Jules Vasquez Reporting,

Stake Bank it's a 20-acre island just off the coast of Belize City. It used to be all mangroves but now it's been short of that - and as this promotional 3D rendering shows, it will be transformed into a cruise resort destination.

Mike Feinstein, Tourism Developer
"Stake Bank is designed to work hand in hand with the existing village. So after completion, hopefully we can get the numbers back up to a million or a million and five and the actual traffic in Belize City and the existing tourism village will probably double. This is not taking away anything from what's happening. This is just enhancing the situation. We are saving the industry basically."

But, for all its promise, that project never saw the light of day; it was shelved, and some thought thrown out.

But Prime Minister Dean Barrow hinted that it was back on the table when he announced that Crawl Caye as a cruise port could not happen for Norwegian Cruise Line due to the environmental concerns.

So, it’s made a come-back, and it may even to be realized this time around. Last night was the first step in that direction.

So, what’s different now? That’s what we asked the Engineer hired by the Feinstein Group to explain.


Jose Garcia - Engineer Representing Feinstein Group
"These are old projects that have been approved several years ago, I think specifically in 2007. One was for the North Drown Caye and the other one was for State Bank. North Drown Caye is basically a marina housed in the hotel complex area and the State Bank was specifically Cruise Ship destination where chesters will be built so the people land on the island and can actually come off on the island and jump into a bus and head into Belize City. What had been approved previously way back in 2007 was the cause way from Belize City to North Drown Caye but at this point what was done was they requested three changes for North Drown Caye. One - to change the inner canal system to improve it for better current, patterns and improvement of the weather quality, two - was just to change a 5 acre tourism zone into a Cruise Destination village and three - was the cause way for North Drown Caye to State Bank. Then in State Bank only two changes was requested, one - to have a bunkering facilities to fill oil or diesel into the ship whenever it is needed but it is self contained within a ship and two - was that we were no longer interested in the canal that would have been dug from State Bank to English Channel which was several miles and the width and depth would have been equivalent to almost 5 million cubic yards of material, so that is not being considered in this project anymore."

And as he outlined, a major part of the development is the proposed causeway to be built from Belize City to North Drown Caye. That idea isn’t sitting well at all with the environmentalists who say that this causeway will affect the Swallow Caye Reserve, which has been set up to protect the endangered manatee population.

They aired those concerns with conviction last night.

Jamal Galvez - Manatee Conservationist
"There's no good that that could cause for Manatees by putting a cause way through, the only area in Belize that they call home - it's like putting a bulldozer tree in your living room while you're watching the television."

And with strong opinions such as these, the Department of Environment representatives had to field mostly questions aimed at quality assurances and conservation.

Roberto Pott, a very active member of the Healthy Reefs Initiative, eventually couldn’t take anymore. He cursed the DOE and the developer, and then walked out of the meeting.

He told us outside that it was because the authorities weren’t giving him any good answers that he could accept as an environmentalist.

Roberto Pott - Healthy Reefs Initiative
"They are saying that originally the PIA and the ECP gave them approval to dig from English caye into State Bank. They are saying they are voluntarily giving up that opportunity so that should give them the right to build a cause way through the park and that's not an argument - that's not a compromise, it was never on the table as I understand."

The Swallow Caye Reserve is a cause championed by Lionel ‘Chocolate’ Heredia. It was finally formalized in 2002, and since then has been operating as such.

So those after him, who respect his work, say that he would be rolling in his grave if he heard that this project was back on the table.

Roberto Pott
"His ashes haven’t even settled at the bottom of the sea yet and here is this project popping up. The man - we just had his burial ceremony about a month ago and here is this project popping it, we don't want to cast aspersions but it seems so coincidental that this is happening now."

Jamal Galvez - Manatee Conservationist
"Swallow Caye reserve has been for Manatees for over the years, it's something that the late 'Chocolate' fought for over the years. To run a cause way through the sanctuary is unbelievable, I'm surprised of such idea - there's no positive that Manatees can actually gain from a cause way going right through in Belize that they can actually call home. The small ways of all the water ways in Belize that these Manatees are residents to it's not like we can tell these Manatees to go on vacation while they're putting a cause way and for them to come back when it is finished."

So with such a vast difference in opinion, how do both sides find a common ground?

Some of the environmentalists are willing to compromise if the developer, Mike Feinstein, sticks with the program, which he didn’t back in 2007.

Roberto Pott
"There's a planned port or a port that got half started at Port Loyola that never got completed. This is the second time that State Bank/Drown Caye is coming around - if you recall it started up and the last team, we weren't sure about what was going to happen and what was going to come to fruition. I think we're able to make compromises and sacrifices but I think due diligence is not being done to ensure that when somebody commits to something that they will deliver and the people when they agree to make a sacrifice that they'll be reciprocated for that sacrifice that they made, something that they gave up for future returns. Because they end up without a port and without something happening out at State Bank then DOE and us will be left with the mess."

Jules Vasquez
"How will you answer the criticism 'well the manatees will adapt, they're intelligent animals and they will learn to adapt'. At one point we didn't even have a north side of the City and most of this has been reclaimed, they've adapted over time and they will adapt again and it's not worth standing in the way of progress and so much employment for animals that can survive."

Jamal Galvez
"Manatees are already on the endangered list, Belize hosts the highest population of this species and it would be sad for other countries looking in to see the consideration Belizean take on such an endangered species. By the time these animals may adapt we may not have any Manatee to conserve."

Jules Vasquez
"How will you answer the criticism that the manatees are a dime and the proposed ocean Bay-view grand tourism development is a ten dollar bill? You can't make a dime hold up a dollar."


Nicole Auil Gomez - Executive Director, Southern Environmental Association
"If that was the case then I think you would need to see really what the economic benefit is and I think that's something that we don't really explore. What is the stance of recipients of that ten dollar disbursement as opposed to the shilling? Because we do have some people that make quite a bit of money on the tourists to the location as it is where the manatees are, they change $75 a head to fill a boat with 20 people and they go a few boats a day. So it is not as though nothing is being made currently. If you're looking at economically it's open, this type of proposal can be somewhat exclusive and somewhat closed."

Jose Garcia
"These manatees, whatever impact we cause on them will be short term. The long term existing impact is the power boats that goes through that reserve because they come floating by my house all the time. Dead manatees - it's power boats that kill them."

Even though the Feinstein Group may not accept the strong position of most of the environmentalists who attended last night, the representative believes that the discussion was mostly positive.

Jose Garcia
"It was a good consultation; I haven't been to one like this in quite some time. The people that were here were high powered people, a lot of excellent questions were asked - some of them we couldn't answer but we will look into them. I asked the people that they make it to this consultation and that they still have time to send their comments or concerns to the department of environment. They have until the 26th because the following day, next week Thursday, the National Environmental Appraisal Committee will review this project and see if it flies, it changes because remember this project has been approved already."

Those who want to give their input on the project can email the Department of Environment at envirodept@btl.net and they have until next week Wednesday to do so. The following day, NEAC the National Environmental Appraisal Committee will consider the proposal.

Channel 7


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#466998 - 06/21/13 11:01 AM Re: Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Placencia Tourism Interests Reaping The Whirlwind For NCL Harvest Caye Proposal

And while that project is engaging cruise and conservation interests in Belize City – Placencia’s tourist industry stakeholders are looking to kick up dust again.

And again, they are trying to block a proposed project from Norwegian Cruise Line.

After being blocked on Crawl Caye, it seems Norwegian Cruise Lines has turned its attention to Harvest Caye, which is just south of the peninsula. It’s a privately owned island – and reports are that Norwegian has signed a letter of intent with the British island owner to develop a cruise port.

But, it’s not going to happen if the Placencia Tour Guide Association has its way. At what’s described as a well attended meeting last night, 41 of 44 attendees voted to reject any Norwegian proposal for Harvest Caye.

Opinions ranged from concerns over manatee feeding and mating habitats that would be destroyed by dredging, to the effect on overnight tourism and the allegation that no construction jobs are promised to villagers.

Speaking of the possible shift in cruise activity from Central to South Belize, Chair of the Placencia Chapter of BTIA, Stewart Krohn, told us, quote, “Cruise Tourism is like herpes; don’t willfully spread it.”

Krohn told us Placencia Tourism interests and their allies will make a concerted effort to block any plan for Harvest Caye, by applying domestic and international pressures – much as they did for the aborted Crawl Caye Cruise port.

Channel 7


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#466999 - 06/21/13 11:02 AM Re: Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BTB Says GOB Must Decide Cruise Future

And in the middle of this is the Belize Tourism Board. It represents all tourism interests – even as the bulk of its marketing machinery is focused on attracting overnight visitors.

But this week, with scores of FCCA Platinum members in Belize for their annual meeting, all the talk is about how to bring in more cruise visitors, hopefully taking Belize past the one million mark next year – compared to 600 thousand last year.

And once they’re talking that volume, those cruise executive will sure want to know how to get all those guests ashore – and they’d prefer if it weren’t by cruise tender. We asked Director of Tourism Lara Esquivel Frampton how she’ll answer them:..

Jules Vasquez
"The issue of Belize not having a berthing facility will emerge in these meetings. A State Bank consultation is being held this evening - what will your answer be?"

Laura Esquivel Frampton - Director of Tourism
"Well the answer simply put is that we recgnize it - we are actually working right now to come up with a policy to provide a government in terms of how we move forward in looking for those kinds of investments for a berthing facility. We recognize that the government of Belize certainly recognizes that we need a berthing facility."

Jules Vasquez
"But where will this port be because so much of it depends if it will be Southern Belize or will it be at State Bank?"

Laura Esquivel Frampton
"Well I don't think it's as simple as that. I think you're bringing these up because these are proposals that have come to the government in terms of where these docking facilities will be. That is why I said that we are working very diligently to really best advise the government if a docking facility should come in and where that should be. The information that you have right now is based on where it has been proposed to us. We feel and I think the government agrees very strongly that at some point it should be the government who is saying this is where we want it."

The Platinum meeting moves to Belize City tomorrow where members will take those 12 controversial land based tours – which has FECTAB so angry. That organization issued a release today saying, quote,

“FECTAB is now forced to organize legitimate methods to correct this attitude and ill treatment of Belizeans by fellow Belizeans.”
No word on what those methods are.

Channel 7


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#467049 - 06/22/13 10:44 AM Re: Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


APAMO calls for EIAs for the Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye Developments

The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) expresses great concern on addendums to two EIAs originally submitted in 2007 for development projects at Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye (NDC) and is totally dissatisfied with the public consultation held on the night of 19th June 2013 at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize City. A mega development of this nature has high probability of adversely impacting the sensitive marine ecosystems on which our thriving tourism and fisheries sectors depend. APAMO strongly feels that responses to questions and clarifications were incomplete and unsatisfactory.

We are astounded that the Department of Environment (DOE) has not requested a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for these addendums recognizing the following:

1. That the EIAs and ECPs are from 2006-2007, 6 years ago, and are still considered valid.

2. There are many unresolved factors regarding the causeway from Belize City to NDC that are being left to the permitting agencies after the entire development is approved.

3. The second causeway from NDC to Stake Bank is to run right through a long established national protected area, the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary. This has been totally ignored. During construction of this mega structure it is evident that marine flora and fauna, many recognized globally as threatened and endangered, will be significantly impacted. This can result in the obliteration of one of the only remaining healthy manatee populations in crystalline waters in the world. This would be compounded by the elimination of feeding, mating and nursing sites of the manatees by the major dredging within NDC in the process of building the canal system.

4. The mobile refueling services and gigantic fuel storage tanks to be placed on Stake Bank obviously will pose a high threat to the surrounding protected area and the entire reef system should there be a spill due to the complex current patterns and it is not adequately addressed in the EIA.
5. The inherent massive operations required for the construction of a self-contained tourism village has to require a comprehensive EIA.

APAMO recognizes the country’s social and economic challenges, however, and is in full support of development that will generate needed foreign exchange. Nevertheless, APAMO demands that all precautions and due diligence is undertaken to ensure that all developments are done in a sustainable manner.

APAMO urges the Government of Belize to protect the public commons from overzealous unsustainable developments.
In conclusion we ask that the Department of Environment demands from the developer a complete EIA for both proposed developments on these addendums and that proper consultation be undertaken with all the relevant stakeholders.

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#467052 - 06/22/13 10:54 AM Re: Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

APAMO Asks If Disregarding Protected Areas Has Become A Trend

The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations, APAMO today issued a press release in which it calls on the Government especially the Department of the Environment for Environmental Assessment Impacts for the Stake Band and North Drowned Caye Developments. They also stress their dissatisfaction with the public consultation held on June 19th at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City. This afternoon, Love News spoke with the Executive Director of APAMO, Jose Perez.

JOSE PEREZ

“We came to this conclusion after attending the public consultation that was held on the 19th at the Biltmore Plaza; after attending that forum we realized that there is a lot of information that is lacking; there is key consultations that did not take place and why we are very concerned is that one of the proposed addendum includes a causeway from North Drown Caye to Stake Bank and that traverses or passes right through the Swallow Caye Sanctuary which is popularly known for its protection of the manatees, the friends of Swallow Caye who are the co-managers are our members and we are very concerned that they were not consulted in this whole development of this proposal. These developments were initially given environmental clearance back in 2006 and 2007 and we believe that that is six years ago, so first of all that is a major factor that needs to be recognized by the Department of the Environment; secondly, there is key people that were not consulted; we believe that a complete environmental impact assessment needs to be done for these additional works. Can you imagine a mega structure crossing from North Drown Caye to Stake Bank? The amount of work which will be done in the ocean, the amount of disturbance that will occur; there are very sensitive ecosystems around that area and we are looking not only from the conservation standpoint but even the fisheries sector; many mangroves will be covered with sedimentation and these mangroves serve as nurseries for lobster and commercial fisheries and there is a number of fishermen who set traps around that area; so, we are not only looking at the manatees but we are looking at the impact on livelihoods of tour guides who go out there on a daily basis taking packages out there to visit the manatees.”

Perez explained that there was opportunity to discuss the issue with other stakeholders during the consultation on the 19th.

JOSE PEREZ

“At the consultation there was a number of stakeholders that were present and the consensus was that many of them were not consulted; we are not against development and that is why we are saying let’s take our time, do our due diligence; consult who we need to consult primarily, the key stakeholders, in this case, the friends at Swallow Caye are very important, the tour guides, the tour operators who use that area; talk to us, we are not against development but let us do it in a sustainable manner and taking into consideration the basis to our tourism industry, the natural resources, our natural capital, our natural assets. The key thing here is the size of the development; we are talking about a tourism village that will include casinos, it will include residential areas; you’re talking about a theme park and so you are looking at thousands of people around there; that is after it’s been developed, the second phase; the first phase is the construction of these mega facilities; as is, the North Drown Caye is known for its feeding grounds, its mating grounds and nursing grounds for the manatees and what is being planned is the whole redesigning and establishment of canals within that caye, I mean, come on, you will displace these animals.”

Ironically just last weekend the Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries issued a press release informing of investigations into the death of a Manatee during research works. The major concern for APAMO, Perez says is that it might be becoming a trend that protected areas aren’t respected.

JOSE PEREZ

“The addendums, because remember – let us put this into perspective – the whole Stake Bank and North Drown Caye Development, that has been approved; what is being looked at now is additional development which includes a second causeway from North Drown Caye to Stake Bank; that means that in the process of building that structure, you will have different piles, it means massive works; it includes a modified design for the Drown Caye itself which includes digging up, carving out mangroves; a lot of material which will generate a lot of sedimentation and nowhere at all do we see consideration for manatees and that is exactly where the experts would have been able to contribute but they were not consulted. Very important to note is that Swallow Caye Sanctuary is a protected area and it seems this whole fact is being overlooked; is this a trend now? Is this a trend that protected areas are not respected anymore? We saw the attempt down south with the Trawl Caye that lies within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve which is a World Heritage Site; now we are looking at another Caye right in front of Belize City which is smacked right within another protected area.”

While they wait for their requests to be granted, Perez says APAMO found it necessary to inform the public of what is taking place and asks that the Government take them into consideration when venturing into these big projects.

LOVE TV


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#471804 - 09/04/13 10:36 AM Re: Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Stake Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Stake Bank On the Horizon; NEAC Considers Addenda To 2006 EIA

For weeks now, all the fuss has been about Harvest Caye and the proposed cruise destination that Norwegian Cruise Line wants to build on the island in southern Belize. But while that discussion has dominated the national discourse, the proposed Stake Bank project has slipped completely under the radar. That project, proposed by the Mike Feinstein Group would see the development of two islands off Belize City, Stake Bank for Cruise Tourism and Northern Drowned Key as a tourism destination.

It’s major because it proposes to build a berthing facility where cruise ships can dock right off Belize City – and a causeway right through the Swallow Caye Wildlife sanctuary to shuttle them to and from the city and beyond. Indeed, it is as promising as it is controversial, but it’s similar to Harvest Caye in that it is relying on an environmental impact assessment which was done years ago.

Stake Bank first came to prominence in 2006 – and that’s when the EIA was completed. Now, the re-loaded version of the project is relying on that same EIA with a few addenda. Those addenda were before the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) today. If approved, it would give Stake Bank the green light by approving an environmental Compliance Plan. The group led by the Chief Environmental Officer met for a marathon session today, starting at 9:00 and continuing until after 5:00 pm. At the lunch break we spoke with Chairman Alegria to find out about their deliberations:..

Martin Alegria - Chair, NEAC
"State Bank is one of the agenda items that we're discussing, still having deliberations, we had to break for lunch because the discussion is rich, so we'll be moving on on more concrete decisions later on this afternoon."

Daniel Ortiz
"Is State Bank the main focus of the NEAC meeting today?"

Martin Alegria
"This NEAC meeting, the agenda major is State Bank - not withstanding, we have other issues of the broader picture of Cruise Toursim also being part of - as you all know we have other types of proposals out there that may come or are in the pipeline that we have to consider in making decisions on a long term basis."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, we understand that two amended EIA's have been presented to the NEAC - can you confirm for us at least?"

Martin Alegria
"Your source is really good - this started long ago, about two or three years ago when the investors started to bring back the project that was approved already, both were approved in 2006 or 2007. It is reviving it with time things change, an addendum or two were done in order to look at both projects as one and that is what we're deliberating on and we don't have any decisions yet."

Daniel Ortiz
"We understand that the outcome of this meeting will determine whether or not the investor gets to move forward."

Martin Alegria
"Not exactly you know because in terms of the sustainable development, there are three or four pillars that we rely on and environment is one of those but you also have the economics and the social issues that need to go hand in hand."

At newstime, word coming out of the meeting is that, there is no final decision from the NEAC meeting. We spoke to the Chairman, Martin Alegria, a few minutes ago, who told us that they had to adjourn the meeting because it had run over the time, and issues were still being hotly and contentiously debated with no resolution in sight.

But, it seems, the pressure is on: Alegria added that he’s been instructed that another meeting must be scheduled tomorrow, and if necessary, on Wednesday.

That has to be a major letdown for the Feinstein group; In timing that cannot be ignored, they will have a press launch of the Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye projects tomorrow, which is probably why NEAC is being pressed to a final decision. We’ll tell you all about that announcement from the Feinstein Group on tomorrow’s news.

Channel 7


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